Bruney brothers loved playing for Dad

MARTINS FERRY – Often times a head football coach also serves as a role model to his players.

For brothers Zac and Trevor Bruney such a notion really hit home…literally.

The two former Martins Ferry grid stars played for a coaching legend – their dad, Dave. For some, such an arrangement may prove uncomfortable. Such was not the case for the pair of all-Ohio gridders.

Each relished the chance to play for dad.

Zac starred at quarterback for the Purple Riders. He was the senior captain in 1999 leading his team to a 9-2 finish, losing to Doylestown Chippewa in the playoffs.

Zac went on to author a sparkling career at Mount Union, where he quarterbacked the Purple Raiders to a 27-1 record as a starter and was a finalist for the Gagliardi Award as the Most Outstanding Player in Division III. He was a member of two national championship teams.

Trevor, meanwhile, was a dynamic running back. He captained his 2003 Purple team to a 9-3 finish, losing to Coshocton in round two of the OHSAA playoffs.

“It was probably the best experience in my playing career (playing for my dad). I feel very fortunate and got to enjoy a lot of success in high school, college and in Arena ball. Playing for my dad, tops it all,” Zac said. “I think I appreciate the experience much more now that I am older… and now that I am a father myself. At Ferry we were held to an incredibly high standard in how we conducted ourselves (off the field and on), how we worked in the weight room and in the off-season, how we practiced and how we played. The overall experience of Rider football and the standard of excellence was laid down by many, many coaches and players before I got my chance in the late 90s. But, I think overall, he (my dad) was the standard bearer for all that throughout his entire career.

“I think the best part was that you got to experience your high school career with one of the two people that loved you the most (he and my mom). Football is so engrained in the community, so engrained in the area and means a lot to so many people. You always wanted to wear the Purple and White and strap up Friday nights under the lights growing up. As you grew up, it felt like that day would never come, and then when it did, the time went by so fast,” he added. “But, there wasn’t any type of scenario that was a “gimme.” Trevor and I had to work for everything we got. Just like everyone else in the program. Actually, the standard was higher. That’s probably the way my brother felt, probably the way my cousin Craig felt in playing for his dad, my Uncle Bill, because he was one of the state’s best defensive coordinators, bar none. I think and probably unwarranted — you put extra pressure on yourself to be successful, not to make mistakes, be as good as you possibly can be – not because you wanted the success for yourself — but you never wanted to let him and the staff as a whole down, as well as your teammates.”

Trevor, meanwhile, also dearly embraces the opportunity he experienced playing for his father.

“It’s always easy to say ‘yes, I did’ and move on when friends, other coaches, people in passing, etc. ask this (about if he enjoyed playing for his dad), but when you go into a little more depth, a simple ‘yes’ doesn’t do justice to how grateful and appreciative I am that I got to play for my dad. It goes so much deeper than just having the opportunity to play for him. A lot of people don’t realize that from the time I could walk, I spent every day I could at the field with him, my brother, the players, coaches, etc.,” Trevor said. “I literally grew up at the football field. Going to the field four times a day to help him move and run the sprinklers on the old grass before turf was even a thought; Playing hide and seek (obviously trying our best to hide that from the coaches so the game lasted longer) under the old stands before the fieldhouse was built; sitting in those same old bleachers and having lunch during two-a-days where it was sometimes hotter than it was out on the field for practices; looking up into the bleachers at Floto Field during every single practice and seeing my grandfather there, and getting to run up and sit with him every single day…at the time, I never knew how much some of those small things would stick with me forever and be some of my greatest memories growing up.

“Having the opportunity to play for my dad, I wouldn’t choose any other path, under any other coach, regardless of level. The memories, the wins and losses, the ups and downs, the times we shared as coach and player, father and son, and the support of the entire family and community, I couldn’t ever imagine or appreciate any other high school playing experience than the one I was blessed with,” he offered. “I have said this to everyone that has ever asked me, and I said it to numerous Ferry teams after me, going on and winning three national title rings in college “I would give them all back, without even a hesitation in exchange to relive those moments on Friday nights with my dad, and to play in one more Ferry vs. Bellaire game, where it means so much to so many people, there was no feeling like that in the world.”

Trevor, who followed Zac’s footsteps and played football at Mount Union, noted his dad left football at the field and focused on family on the homefront.

“No matter what, he was a husband and father first. I got to grow up every day, learning and watching my hero be the best husband to my mother before anything. Be the best father to my brother, sister and myself. Had a walking example of someone who has mentored and influenced more people in a lifetime, through the platform of football, than I could ever imagine possible for one person,” Trevor said. “As you get older that’s what you realize matters most. Having teammates, older players, younger players, all reflect on the same sentiment, the times and lessons learned that have stayed with them far beyond when the lights turned off on our high school football years, are the things that impact our lives more so than anything.

“We are a football family, through and through, but the game of football provided us with so much more than just remembering the wins and losses. Starting at home with my mom (the head coach no matter what he says) and my dad — discipline, work ethic, be a good son and brother (teammate), responsible, accountable, dealing with adversity — the list goes on and on, these are all qualities that were reinforced at home and every day at the football field also,” he continued.

Trevor, like his older brother, relished the opportunity to perform for his dad. It was also a scenario that played out seamlessly amongst his teammates.

“To be honest, this was something that never really even was a topic (that I was aware of), but I think the reason for that was it became very apparent very early, to the staff and all of my teammates, that there was never going to be anyone within those walls of the locker room that thought I was getting any special treatment to make it on the field. My first day of two a days, my sophomore year, within the first 10 minutes of practice, I had my first run in with “Coach Dave,” Trevor said. “The way I tell it, he asked, ‘Trevor why does your line only have six guys in it? I said seven lines of seven.’ Now, knowing we have 48 guys on the team, this is an easy answer for me. One line will be one guy short, meaning one line will have six guys, it’s my line. It wouldn’t have mattered what answer there was and who was there to give it for me, the old school Riders know what happens next.

“I went to give my extremely accurate answer, and that first word didn’t make it out before I’m fumbling around on the dirt infield with my helmet and a mouthpiece full of sand, thinking to myself, ‘I can’t wait to tell mom on you. I’m transferring to Bellaire, I’m going to score 12 touchdowns on you in the next three years in the Ferry-Bellaire game. I’m just playing basketball next year’ – the thoughts were endless during that first practice,” he noted. “After our first session ends, it took one sentence for me to realize that no matter what there was always a method to the madness. He called me over, said, ‘No one is ever going to sit in that locker room and say you have it easy.’ I think any teammate of myself and brother would attest that not only myself and brother, none of us ever had it easy… the utmost was demanded at all times, and the lessons we learned from those days at the beach, and on Friday nights, are lessons that we will use forever.”

Zac put the perfect bow on playing for his dad.

“I experienced a lot of emotions through my high school career in football. I wouldn’t trade any of them for any other experience out there, especially the experience to play for my head coach and father, Dave Bruney.”


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